At Great Speech Writing HQ we receive questions about wedding speeches every day of the week. Some crop up more regularly than others. And at the very top of the ‘most asked’ list is the one about groom speech structure.
It’s easy to understand why.
The groom has a huge number of boxes to tick. Thanking some, mentioning others, covering his and his bride’s nearest and dearest. And, on top of all that, he’s also expected to be debonair and amusing.
Not easy! But it is possible.
Firstly, I must drop-in my usual health warning. Every speech we write really IS different. And we NEVER work from a template, or use the ‘cut and paste’ function. So there is no short-cut.
However, there are rules that help us – and can help you – write really interesting and amusing groom speeches that cover all the key areas but don’t last until hours after the first dance should have finished.
The keys here are simple:
Relevance, Seamlessness and Prioritisation
I suggest you start by scribbling down a long list of everyone you need to mention (or think you need to mention). If it looks extraordinarily long, here are a few tips:
1. Don’t thank anyone being paid to be there (caterers, wedding planners, flower arrangers). Although you must, of course, dedicate a section to your speech writer.
2. Try to group people together to avoid lines like ‘and I also need to mention’. So siblings, siblings-in-law, ushers, guests who have travelled from afar can be covered together rather than in sub-lists.
3. Imagine you are in the audience. At what point would you think that the thank yous are getting a bit unnecessary? Perhaps, for example, Great Aunty Carol, who you see once a decade, could be thanked personally on the dance floor, rather than publically?
In a nutshell, your structure requires you to cover those that really matter, and who are truly relevant to your life. And if you want to give them a kiss and a bunch of flowers, then please don’t interrupt your speech to do so.
You have hopefully narrowed down the thanks by now, creating a little more time to mention the few people who really matter. Health and family-circumstances permitting, they are: both sets of parents, any significant elderly relatives, siblings and, possibly, your very closest friends. But it’s not good enough simply to write a brief, touching section on each and then move on.
That’s the ‘school register’ approach. Touching on each individual, and then jumping onto the next, leaving the majority of your guests increasingly impatient and thirsty.
The alternative (and better) way is to link the these sections together so the thank yous happen without the majority of your audience realising. The best way to demonstrate this is in an example:
“Now I’d like to thank my brother Robin who has always been there for me. He has known me since the very start and I forgive him for using me as a punch bag for the first decade of my life. Robin – thanks mate. I hope we’ll always be friends as well as brothers.
And now I’d like to mention my new sister-in-law Jenny. Jenny, I know you and Kate have always been close, and it means so much to us both to have you with us on our special day. We want you to know that our door is always open to you and we hope to see as much of you after the wedding as we have recently!”
“Kate and I are so lucky to be so close to our siblings – Robin and Jenny.
Although Kate is luckier – because I’m not sure Jenny used her as a punch bag for the first decade of her life!
Guys – you mean the world to us …
… and I know that we will remain close in the years to come.”
So, that’s half the number of words, just by linking them together.
Which is where you can develop the structure even further by then leading directly into your next section:
“It is no coincidence that we both have such lovely siblings …
… because we both have wonderful parents.”
And suddenly, you are linking seamlessly from subject to subject without awkward pauses or changes in direction!
When planning your groom speech it is also important to remember who really matters. And that’s your bride. As a rule of thumb I would suggest you spend at least 50% of your time on her. Which, means something in the region of 5-600 words. The worst groom speeches often spend this long reminiscing about their greatest escapades with the best man.
Again, your speech will measurably improve if you don’t see this as a stand-alone ‘section’ of the speech. Compartmentalising your groom speech isn’t a great idea. It will come across as much more natural and heartfelt to mention your wife from the very start. Weaving brief anecdotes and joint-thanks into your speech will also help break-up the rigidity of the thank you ‘list’.
I appreciate that these tips are based more on a series of guidelines rather than ‘rules’. It is so important not to suffocate your own emotions and personal input by trying to fit into a set structure. However, it is likely that the ideal groom speech structure will appear something like this:
1. Thank the father of the bride for his words; re-iterate welcome to guests
2. Mention those who have travelled
3. Weave-in a reference to your wife
4. Link to some key mentions (possibly your parents at this stage)
5. Use anecdotes about the crucial stages in your relationship to link other thanks and mentions
6. Become a little more sincere about what being married to her means to you (without falling the wrong side of the ‘slushometer’)
7. Lighten the mood with a final set of thanks / mentions / possibly a brief introduction to your best man
8. End with a toast (traditionally to the bridesmaids, but weddings are ever-less traditional)
This is clearly only a high-level overview of the groom speech, and our blog includes many more articles offering tips and advice. If this is the first time you have read our words 1) thank you, 2) please let us know what you would like to read about in future and 3) why not stop worrying, pick up the phone, and ask us to write it for you? This is clearly the last time you’ll ever get married (at least it is for half of you!) and our job is to make you sound brilliant.